The shortest day of the year (and vitamin D)

Just before we get to Christmas, in sneaks the shortest day of the year. This Sunday, there are a mere eight hours of daylight! Most of us know that the main source of vitamin D is sun exposure. In truth, it could be sunny 24 hours a day at this time of year in the UK and we still wouldn’t be able to synthesise much – if any – vitamin D, endogenously (within our bodies), because the UV light is of the wrong wavelength in winter. Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly common, particularly in these winter months when our summer […]

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Brussels sprouts: five facts

We’re just entering that phase of the year of the fateful office Christmas party – that hazy afternoon spent awkwardly conversing with Stu from HR and Paula from finance. But while you may wake up on Saturday morning (or afternoon) regretting discussing your personal life with your boss in quite so much detail, you can at least reflect on the fact that you probably enjoyed your first of several Christmas dinners this year. But did you have your Brussels sprouts? Here are five facts about these much-maligned brassicas: 1. Why the weird name? The ‘Brussels’ thing comes from the fact […]

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Should we ban fruit juice from our five a day?

My older brother sent me this article recently – it’s a revisiting of the old fruit juice / sugar debate. As I say, this is hardly a new area of disagreement, but is interesting nonetheless, and fits in nicely with some of my recent posts on sugar and the five a day message. I couldn’t help but notice one of the comments underneath the article, stating: ‘This disjointed approach to healthy eating is counterproductive. We are hit by isolated messages that say eat this, don’t eat that – and then every organisation wants to get their opportunity to gain some media attention […]

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World Diabetes Day

This Friday is World Diabetes Day, a timely reminder of this most devastating of diseases. As the world’s waistlines grow, the burden of diabetes does too. We’ve all heard the stats, but if you’re anything like me, these numbers are quoted so often that they start to go in one ear and out of the other (the same goes for obesity stats actually). Take a look at the diabetes UK website or the NHS choices diabetes section for some of the latest figures (and a great deal besides that), but for now, let’s just concentrate on the basics. Halloween may have been and gone, but […]

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Stress, cortisol and nutrition

Stress. Such a little word, but such a big issue. We all have our own underlying causes of stress, and our own ways of attempting to deal with it. But what seems to be pretty much universally agreed is that it is on the rise. Take a look at this NHS piece, for example, on the topic of increased stress-related hospital admissions (in this case, thought to be partly attributable to the recession). Many of us have heard of cortisol, and may be familiar with its common moniker, ‘the stress hormone’ – a nickname owing to its increased secretion in times of […]

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It’s Halloween! Five fun facts about pumpkins

Yep, it’s Halloween on Friday. Much as I dislike the aggressive commercialisation of all these festivals (I could not believe my eyes when I saw Oxford Street already lined with christmas lights on a warm day at the start of October), there is much to enjoy about Halloween’s traditions. When I think Halloween, I think pumpkins. Here are five fun facts for these familiar festive friends. Try saying that with your mouth open.  1.  The main reason the shops are stacked with pumpkins at this time of year (aside from it being the end of their normal growing season), is of […]

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Clocks go back…time for breakfast!

For many of us, this will be the last week of the year that we can even think about leaving work in daylight, what with the clocks going back this weekend. So, while that is in itself a depressing prospect, it does bring with it two potential upsides: An extra hour of Sunday morning / Saturday night (delete as appropriate). Two of the best times of the week, i’m sure you’ll agree. The prospect of not waking up and going to work in total darkness… for a little while longer. This second point means, in my case at least, that […]

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Focus on oils #3: five facts about olive oil

Over the past fortnight I have focussed on oils, blogging first about rapeseed, and then moving onto controversial coconut oil. I conclude this mini-series with a look at an old favourite: olive oil. 1.  As with both rapeseed and coconut oil, olive oil is remarkably versatile. With a smoke point of around 380 degrees fahrenheit (a little lower than many other cooking oils) it is not so well suited to frying, but it remains a culinary powerhouse, adding that beautiful Mediterranean flavour to salad dressings, pasta dishes and dips. But beyond this, olive oil has uses ranging from the ancient and […]

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Focus on oils #2: five facts about coconut oil

Last week I introduced a mini-series of blogs on kitchen oils. First under the microscope was the versatile rapeseed oil. This week, I am going to look at an oil which has been the subject of much debate in recent months and years, and one that continues to divide opinion: coconut oil. 1. As with many popular oils, coconut oil has a number of uses, in industry (as a precursor for biodiesel and an engine lubricant), cosmetics and personal (everything from skin moisturiser to hair conditioner… to sexual lubricant), and of course, food and cooking, particularly in frying (smoke point 350 degrees […]

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Focus on oils #1: five facts about rapeseed

Choosing which oils to have in the kitchen can be a tricky process, with so many factors to take into account. As a dietitian, I am interested in the oil’s nutritional composition, smoke point, versatility and, most importantly, flavour, are key considerations too. So, this introduces a mini-series of three blogs which might help to ease the process next time you are in the cooking oils aisle. Without further ado, here are five facts about one of my personal favourites, rapeseed oil: 1.  Rapeseed was originally used in the 19th century as a lubricant for steam engines, deemed unsuitable for […]

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